As you may know, the shadow is a mental complex defined by Carl Jung as all those parts of our personality rejected by the ego (the ego being defined as the focal point of consciousness). So, the characteristics, feelings, and tendencies that we deny (generally with moral indignation) as being contained within us, usually make up the shadow. The shadow can be “negative/dark,” or “positive/light.” We can deny that we possess qualities we find objectionable, as well as qualities we long for or admire. In this blog post, when I refer to shadow, I will mostly be referring to the repressed and despised “dark” parts of ourselves. Like these:
In the “Consciousness Community,” I often see a resistance to “Shadow Work.”
I get it.
Because we are trying to balance and marry the feminine and masculine energies after centuries of masculine dominance and rule, many of us have rejected what we see as the very real darkness inherent in masculine hierarchy and subordination of the feminine. What we want now is cooperation, goodness, and light. Instead of a true marriage of the opposites, many of us have refused to look at the dark side of the feminine principle, and insist on “focusing on the positive.”
And there are all kinds of teachings and pithy sayings that support this way of seeing, such as “Like attracts like,” “What you think about you bring about,” and a shallow reading of “As a man (or woman) thinketh in his heart, so is (s)he.” The assumption, I think, is that if we focus on the beauty around us, then evil will just disappear…like…magic!
And while part of me (as evidenced above) believes in and loves magic, until we are able to break through the duality of this thought form, realizing all is part of the ONE, we won’t be able to make any real transformation, whether it be personal transformation or change for our world. We’ll continue to project the evil “in here” onto the evil “out there.”
There are all kinds of maps and charts that document the journey from our individual and collective slumber to being “awakened.” I like Spiral Dynamics: http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Spiral_Dynamics and the simpler and new-to-me “Stages of Spiritual Consciousness” created by Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith: http://blog.mindvalleyacademy.com/spiritual-growth/michael-beckwith-on-the-4-stages-of-spiritual-growth
All of the maps in every tradition affirm the necessity of moving through the dark night, of facing our demons, of learning to embrace our flaws before the dawning of the light.
One of the best known of these maps is in narrative form: The hero’s (and heroine’s) journey is rife with monsters and dragons to slay. It’s not all goodness and light. The way to the Grail or Enlightenment is through the dark forest, not around it.
Of course there’s a natural fear that if we go into the darkness it will consume us. But if we give in to that fear and refuse this leg of the journey altogether, staying on our light side of the forest and calling admittedly beautiful and addicting states of consciousness “enlightenment,” we’ll never taste of a True Unitive Consciousness. Maybe you are satisfied with that. Lots of people are. It can be a fun place to be, manifesting all over the place and projecting our darkness onto “those people.” But I’m not satisfied with staying there anymore. I can see too much of my own hubris, my own greed and lust for power, my own darkness. I want it transformed.
So, shadow work is an important part of any transformational work, and of Altar Ego, where shadows are welcomed, explored, and transformed for our good and the good of all.
For all of you positivity junkies out there, just know that on the other side of the dark forest and the dark night, there is beauty and light! More luminous than luminous! Jung called it the Gold in the Shadow. So far in my experience, it’s worth the trip (and I’m not talking about dour-sour faced wandering here – there’s a LOT of laughter along the way! Sometimes healing is a very funny business!).
One of my favorite ways to sneak up on shadows is through the process of SoulCollage®, where we explore not only the darkness, but also the gifts of Shadow Work (I’ll hold another SoulCollage® shadow workshop on August 1st, see the event calendar for info).
Here are The Gifts of Shadow Work (and some of the archetypes in my personal SoulCollage® cards that represent them):
- You will connect to your life’s purpose, step into leadership and into the power to bless and support yourself and others, and increase your ability to make powerful choices. This is the direction of the Queen in her positivity.
- You will gain perspective, find solutions to problems, understand patterns in your life and transform them, and learn about your relationship with Trust. This is the direction of the Light Bearer with awareness.
- You will set and hold healthy boundaries, achieve goals, be in service to self and others, and gain confidence and power. This is the direction of the Warrior standing in her truth.
- You will open up to emotions, a deeper capacity to love and let love in, claim creativity, and listen to the wisdom of your body. This is the direction of the Lover in her openness.
~My husband, Matt says: Bring a flashlight. 🙂